Samsung stepped up its industrial design game at the top end of its device portfolio but the low and mid-range devices are yet to follow suit, with the Galaxy J5 looking fairly similar to the other Samsung phones since 2013. The design wasn't particularly striking back then when it was introduced with the S III and is decidedly long in the tooth now. This is not a phone you are going to buy for its looks, that's for sure.
On the front of the device is the 5.0" 720p display surrounded by a fair amount of bezel. Above the display is the earpiece, with the front facing camera next to it along with the proximity sensor. The J5 does not have an ambient light sensor to control display brightness automatically, and there is also no notification LED. What you do get instead is a powerful front facing LED flash, which we'll get to later.
Below the display is the physical Home button in the middle flanked by the multitasking and back buttons, neither of which are backlit or even have any kind of vibration feedback when pressed.
The sides of the phone are covered in shiny plastic that tries to pass off as chrome but ends up looking a bit tacky. On the right side is the power button, on the left the volume controls. The buttons are easy to access and provide good feedback. On the bottom is the microUSB port, the headphone jack and the primary microphone.
On the back is the 13 megapixel main camera with single LED flash and single loudspeaker. The camera lens is slightly raised to not muffle the speaker and that ends up working surprisingly well with nominal drop in speaker volume even when the phone is kept flat on its back.
The back cover is removable and underneath is the removable battery, two micro SIM card slots and one microSD card slot. The microUSB slot can be accessed without having to remove the battery. The back cover comes off fairly easily and snaps back into place securely.
The build quality is par for the course for a Samsung device. Despite the overwhelming plasticky feel of it, the phone seems solidly built with no audible creaking of the body when pressed. The body isn't dust or water resistant like the new Moto G but the phone feels like it could take the rough and tumble of daily life.
The Galaxy J5 has a 5.0-inch 1280x720 pixel Super AMOLED display, which is surprisingly good for a phone in this price range. The colors are quite natural for an AMOLED unit and almost make it look like an LCD. The J5 does not have the color profile picker from more expensive Samsung phones so you are stuck with the one display color setting, but in this case that's not really a problem.
The display has good viewing angles and sunlight legibility. The colors also don't shift with brightness level, which is a problem with some of the AMOLED displays.
As mentioned before, there is no ambient light sensor so you have to adjust brightness manually. Samsung has included an Outdoors mode, which boosts the brightness beyond the normal max brightness and also increases the gamma level to make the display more visible outdoors. The touchscreen works perfectly fine but has only two point multi-touch support, which is perfectly fine for most use cases.
The Galaxy J5 offers impressive battery life from its 2,600mAh battery. Even with two SIM cards you can expect to get around 5-6 hours of on-screen time with upwards of 20 hours of total battery life.
It's one phone you can forget to take your external battery pack with and not have to worry about dying out on you before you get home at the end of the day. Unfortunately, charging the phone takes painfully long, with 1% to 100% taking exactly three full hours with a standard 5V/2A charger.